FLY written and directed by Natasha Mytnowych, with Robin Archer, Lisa Codrington, Daniel Karasik, Michelle Morgan and Zoe Sweet. Presented by companytheatrecrisis at Passe Muraille Backspace. August 5 at 9:30 pm, August 8 and 5 pm, August 9 at 11 pm, August 10 and 14 at 8 pm, August 13 at 3:30 pm, August 15 at 12:30 pm. Rating: NNNNN
Whatever you do, don't call Natasha Mytnowych a chicken. For an earlier version of her play Fly, the quickly rising director boldly used a raw chicken suspended over the stage, and she ended up with a case of salmonella. "It probably wasn't the safest way to go about it," she says now, "but it was good to take that risk. You never know how theatrical something's going to be until you try it."
Another example? For her hit SummerWorks 2003 show, Ungeziefer [vermin], a stunning adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, she had some performers throwing apples against a wall. That resulted in an effective sound and an evocative image, but also eventually provoked the audience's sense of smell, something that came as a surprise.
"The design helps define the vision," says the precocious U of T student, who's also on staff at feminist theatre company Nightwood, regularly participates in the Tarragon's Paprika Festival and has gone through Soulpepper's directors lab. For her shows, she routinely helps design sets, lighting and costumes, and regularly works with large-sized puppets.
Inspired by an event that occurred in the director/writer's Mississauga high school, Fly is a magic-realist piece about a bunch of young people who have survived a mysterious event.
"The setting is a mythical North America," she offers. "There are contemporary elements, but also suggestions of life a century ago. It's definitely not realistic."
Last January, a workshop of the play, entitled Wrecked, won Mytnowych the Robert Gill Award for direction at the U of T Drama Festival, adjudicated by actor Ann-Marie Kerr. Mytnowych later fine-tuned the script with Djanet (Harlem Duet) Sears and Claudia (The Gwendolyn Poems) Dey.
"Djanet is incredibly specific about examining scenes and characters and what this world's about, whereas Claudia has this ability to look at the play as a thematic whole," says Mytnowych.
Even after all this help, she calls Fly a work-in-progress.
"I can't say, 'Well, this show is done,'" she laughs. "I'm figuring things out as we're going on, right up to the beginning of a show. It's great that there's the freedom to take risks, experiment."
Just keep her away from the poultry.